HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Last summer, jockey Edgard Zayas was one-win shy of earning the leading rider title at Gulfstream’s inaugural summer meet.
One year later, the sting of the loss remains strong for Zayas, who did end up earning a 2013 summer riding title, but it was across town at Calder. The experience left the Puerto Rican with lofty aspirations for 2014. He craves vengeance, and he desires to be the leading rider this summer at both South Florida racecourses.
“I tried last year,” Zayas said. “I was so close – one win away. Now, that’s pretty much my main goal this year – try to be the leading jockey at both tracks at the same time.”
Many would find this way of thinking to be unrealistic, but few have the work ethic Zayas does. On any given day, the 20-year-old was splitting between two South Florida tracks with few breaks in between.
“It’s a lot of stress,” Zayas said. “You’ve got to be really, really rushed. You’ve got to finish the race and try to pull up your horse as soon as you can so you can run out to make the next race at the next track. But if you’re winning and you’re doing good, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
Indeed, a rushed Zayas seems to make for a productive Zayas. He’s winning races at a 22% clip in 2014 and was ranked 17th in the nation in wins last year, a year that saw him win his first Grade 1 aboard Starship Truffles in the Princess Rooney Stakes. He used his success on the South Florida racing circuit to propel himself to an Eclipse Award nomination for top apprentice jockey of 2013, and when he lost his bug, it didn’t slow him down.
“I think the hard work I’ve been doing is paying off, thanks to my agent (Tito Fuentes) and thanks to all the trainers that give me opportunities. I had the advantage in the winter that when everyone (the top riders) was here at Gulfstream, I went there to Calder to start winning races. I kept trying to stay in the moment – not getting too low – and I just kept winning.”
Zayas has all but secured the riding title at Calder, but Gulfstream’s is still for the taking, and the journeyman will now be riding the majority of his races in Hallandale. With current leading riders Gabriel Saez and Elvis Trujillo having left town for the summer, Zayas, currently third in the standings, will likely be fighting for the top spot at Gulfstream.
“Everything has been going great so far,” Zayas said. “I’m winning at both tracks. I just wish to be leading rider at both.”